Big League lived up to his name Friday at Exhibition Park Raceway in Saint John, N.B., in the $4,000 Milton Downey Memorial Invitational.
Dale Spence sent the son of Four Starzzz Shark right to a new track record of 1:53.4 for the half-mile oval. Big League was the leader at every station with fractions of 27.1, 55.4, and 1:24.4 before kicking clear by seven lengths over All Turain (Gilles Barrieau) and Dance Hanover (Stephen Trites). Fourth and fifth spots went to Touch Of Lightning (Earl Smith) and Hyperion Blue Chip (Mike Downey), respectively. The four-year-old pacer Big League is owned and trained by Jonah Moase of Cornwall.
The former track record of 1:54.3 was jointly held. Sandy Hanover set the original standard in the 1996 $15,000 Provincial Cup final for driver Mike MacDonald and trainer Hughie Murphy with a 10-length romp over Happy Family and Luna Fantasia. Woodmere Topcat then tied the record on Oct. 17, 1998, with Todd Trites in the bike for Lloyd Denton, just eight days after setting the old Summerside Raceway track record of 1:55.3.
Monday at the Fredericton Raceway, the Williamson stake for two-year-old pacers highlighted the card. Island winners in $6,130 divisions included Tobins Fusion (Barrieau) in 2:01.3 in his colt division for owners Boyd MacDonald Produce of Crapaud, Daniel Ross of Belfast and Charles Seymour of Fredericton, N.B. Elm Grove Inarush (Gordie Hennessey) was a winner in her division in 2:01.4 for co-owner and trainer Eddy Doucette and co-owners Blaine Thibeau, Gordon MacLeod and Grant Mann, all of Kensington.
One filly division was marred by an accident as Island owned Pictonian Sareta (Mike Stevenson) fell down going through the first turn. The race was declared a no contest and was ruled Sea Anna Win (Earl Smith) was at fault and now has to qualify for causing an accident.
Big League and Spence are reunited Saturday night in the $6,500 Chippin Memorial Invitational at the Fredericton Raceway but have been shouldered with the outside slots in the five-horse field. He will face off against, from the rail out, All Turain (Brodie MacPhee), Proven Lover (Terry Gallant), Lucky Encounter (Alex Sobey) and Greatheart Hanover (Jason Hughes).
The Chippin goes as the final race on the 10-dash card in Fredericton that has a 4 p.m. start time. A 10-dash card goes to post at 1 p.m. with the Bill Quigg Memorial stake for three-year-old filly pacers. The three-year-old colt pacers line up for three $6,630 divisions on the later card, which also features two divisions of the $3,040 Atlantic aged mares pacing series.
Across the continent
The $683,000 Metro stake final lined up Saturday night at Mohawk Raceway in Campbellville, Ont., but Arthur Blue Chip was a late scratch.
The Shadow Play two-year-old is trained by Summerside native Dr. Ian Moore and was a winner in 1:51.2 in his $40,000 elimination. The final was won by Boomboom Ballykeel (Sylvain Filion) in 1:50.4.
On the same card, Bolt The Duer failed to deliver as the favourite in the $651,000 Canadian Pacing Derby won by Arocknroll Dance (Tim Tetrick) in a Canadian record 1:47.2. Bolt The Duer paced a mile in 1:48.2 yet finished seventh with Kingston native Mark MacDonald in the bike.
Gold Cup and Saucer champion Escape The News is entered to race Monday night in a $20,000 elimination of the Bobby Quillen stake at Harrington Raceway in Delaware. His first start since the Charlottetown race was a sixth-place finish in 1:53 at Yonkers Raceway in New York.
Hillbilly Hanover finished second in 1:51.2 in the $46,000 Yonkers Open pace in his first start since leaving the Island and is entered again to race Saturday at Yonkers.
Panacotta has been racing solid for the last month and now is riding a two- race winning streak.
The eight-year-old son of The Panderosa was a winner in 1:58.2 Friday at Exhibition Park Raceway with Blaine Baglole in the bike, then was a winner Monday in Fredericton in 2:00 with Barrieau driver. The pacer has finished no worse than second in his last five starts and will race again Saturday in Fredericton in the $2,000 Albert Goodine Memorial Invitational with Barrieau again driving. Panacotta is owned by Shane Baglole of Cornwall.
(Nicholas Oakes’ column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)